Letters to a young scientist

It is early, very early morning in London. My flight leaves from Heathrow, and since I am on the east end, the car will take an hour to get to the airport. I have decided to stay up until I leave at 4:30 AM when I will trudge out of the overly modern hotel and into the stubby, funny looking taxi. It is misty, and that fits my mood.

Keller gave me a gift today. It is Edward O. Wilson’s Letters to a Young Scientist. Regarded as one of the world’s preeminent biologists and naturalists, Edward O. Wilson spent his boyhood exploring the forests and swamps of the American south, collecting snakes, butterflies, and ants–ants became his lifelong specialty. The author of more than twenty books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Ants” and “The Naturalist,”  Wilson is a professor at Harvard.61EVHwilv5L

Keller told me that Wilson’s book was deeply inspiring. He said the little book truly played a major role in Keller’s decision to continue working as a biologist and ecologist far away in Australia despite the crap fledgling scientists must endure, not to mention the miserable pay. As this recent piece in the New York Times demonstrates, even grizzled biologists have been inspired by Wilson as well.

I asked Keller to inscribe the book on the inside cover. He laughed at me, but grudgingly did so. It reads, “To: Dad, Love Keller, London, 2013.”

From the depths of my most unscientific heart, thank you Professor Wilson.


7 responses

  1. Seems like a neat book. I often read your blog posts as letters to a young lawyer. Maybe I’m just hopeful.

    By the way, I can’t say enough great things about Nebraska. The majority of my wife’s family is from outside of Kearney. A place that barely appears on Google Maps. We visit as much as we can, and I find it very soul-restoring. Every time I visit I want to quit the law and pick up a hammer and build something.

    Though, I note the last time I visited Nebraska I was told my “hands are too soft” more times than I care to mention.

    And when my wife cautiously mentioned she was a vegetarian at a family outing near Holdrege, this was the exchange:

    Husker: “Would you care for some steak?”
    Wife: “Oh, no thanks, I…I actually don’t eat meat.”
    Husker: “Oh, that’s nice. OK then how about some chicken?”

    Thanks again for sharing.


  2. Matt,

    Great story about Kearney, Holdrege and your wife’s family. Despite the fact that I was from Ohio, I graduated from Kearney State College in 1969. I think I am the only person ever to have been admitted to the college on academic probation. I loved it, and got a great education. After law school and a clerking gig with a federal appeals court, I practiced law in Lexington for 13 years. Lex (as they say) is just down the road west about 45 miles. As a lawyer, I spent a lot of time in Holdrege and Kearney.

    Don’t worry about your hands. Mine were (and are) soft too. And, shit-o-dear, I wore loafers. Aside from getting a raft from my lawyer friends about my shoe choices, I made life long and very close friends. The best lawyer I know was my senior partner, Ed Cook. My junior partner Jim Doyle, is now Judge Doyle on the district bench in Lexington. I would and have entrusted my children’s lives to either one of those guys without the slightest hesitation. In short, wonderful people. Truly, salt of the earth.

    Thanks for taking the time to write. I appreciate it.

    All the best.


  3. Mary,

    Thank you my dear friend for reminding me. I think of you often.

    Say, read the comment from Matt about Kearney and Holdrege and my response regarding Lex.

    All the best.


    PS to other readers: Mary is a former law clerk of mine. Her dad is Jim Hewitt, a former President of the Nebraska Bar Association and a former member of the ABA Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary. I had the great privilege of representing Mary’s grandmother as well as Mary’s Uncle Bill, a Congressman for the Third District and resident of Lexington.

  4. Wilson also wrote a novel titled “Anthill.” My background is in science, and two of my favorites are “A Feeling for the Organism” a biography of genetic scientist Barbara McClintock, and “Chaos.” Happy reading!

  5. Pingback: A reading list for young lawyers « Hercules and the umpire.

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